How much info to share with co-workers

Every 6 months, I update my employer by submitting a doctor’s note that I am not yet ready to return to work and they extend my medical leave another 6 months. My employer knows that initially I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, but that also later doctors realized it was more complex (I did not tell them what the diagnosis was).

In a month’s time, I plan on submitting another doctor’s note and extending my leave by another half year as I am still unready to return to work (and have no idea if or when I can return to work). My coworker has just reached out to me asking how I am. I get along fine with this person but not necessarily close and we have not communicated in over a year. I know that the person is trying to find out if or when I will come back and my response will be shared with my manager.

How much information do you share with coworkers or managers that are checking in with you, without being rude? I can’t say “I’m okay” because I’m not and that would give the impression I can work. But is it okay to let them know I am not functioning well, house-bound and not sure when I will return to work? They’ll find out in a month’s time when I extend my leave that I’m not coming back yet.

What do you tell them?


You don’t really owe your coworker any explanation at all. Can you just not respond?

I highly recommend that you never tell anyone at work that you are not getting better and that you have no idea “if or when” you will be able to return to work. Once you start communicating that type of information you open the door for your employer to say your employment contract is frustrated, which will allow them to terminate your employment with no severance or very minimal severance depending on your province.

I know I don’t “owe” them an explanation but I guess my workplace is different and so I would like to respond as it will make it too awkward for me otherwise. I was wondering how other people would respond if they did respond.

Thanks for the advice not to tell them I am not getting better and don’t know if/when I will return. I definitely don’t want them to think I won’t be returning which like you said could then lead to a frustration of contract.

I may just tell the person I’m still doing treatment and will see how it goes.

Thanks again

I would give a very surface level response, something like ‘getting by the best I can, how is your family?’ and treat it like small talk. If they ask a follow up about your prognosis just divert again with something like ‘time will tell’.

Thanks Caro. I’ll keep it superficial and avoid saying anything about my condition. I guess if asked about my health, I could also answer “I’ll update HR in due course” and try to prevent any further questions about my condition. I’m nervous as the same person asked me a year ago if I wanted to go out for some coffee and I had to tell them I’m not up to it yet.

Thanks again

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This is a personal choice, but I would recommend not telling anything to co-workers because you cannot rely on them to respect your privacy. Often this information get back to management or the person has been sent by management for this purpose.

David Brannen

Disability Lawyer with Resolute Legal

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Thank you David for your input. I have been too hesitant and haven’t responded to my co-worker yet. If I do decide to respond, I’ll definitely avoid saying anything my condition.

Thank you again. I really appreciate this forum. It has been such a huge help.